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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY              299

Rousseau* s educational scheme follows immediately from his
principles of age-grouping, and has the same merits and demerits.
Its deepest truth is the recognition of the profound significance
of the adolescent changes for education: its deepest error is the
exaggeration of the effects of these changes, and, consequent on
that, the rigid separation of childhood from later life and the
under-estimate of the moral and intellectual powers of the child.
(a) Education begins at birth with the physical and social reactions
caused by the child's bodily activity. The main rule for the
educator at this stage is not to spoil the lessons of experience by
overmuch neglect or overmuch indulgence. For the acquirement
of the elementary arts of eating, speaking and walking in these
first years, nothing more is required than unconscious imitation
and personal effort, (b] In childhood up to twelve, education
should be mainly negative, consisting " not in the teaching of
virtue or of truth, but in the preservation of the heart from vice
and the mind from error."* The boy at this age is as yet too
immature to understand moral facts, and no attempt should be
made to teach morality, except when it can be reduced to physical
terms (for example, by comparing anger with a fever), or brought
home to the child when he misbehaves by the discipline of con-
sequences. For the same treason, it is vain to teach the ordinary
school subjects. Languages, geography, history> even fables, all
imply an understanding of the facts of life beyond a boy's com-
prehension : if they are taught, they can only be learned as empty
words which pervert the mind by a semblance of knowledge.
The only direct education proper to the time of life is the training
of the mind through physical activities. " To learn to think we
must exercise the limbs, senses and organs, which are the instru-
ments of intellect.5'! More especially is this the time for sense
training. " The senses are the first faculties to take form and
attain perfection, and consequently should be the first to be
cultivated.";}; But training the senses calls for more than the
mere use of them : it means learning to judge by them. Sight,
for example, is perfected by exercises in the measurement aad
estimation of distances, drawing from actual objects, practical
geometry, and ball games. All the learning that is done, however,
must come by way of play: there should be no compulsion
except that of personal desire, (c) In the transition years from

* ii, 67,             t ģi *8?.             J ii, 215,